As interesting or as varied as many characters are in Exit Fate, the raw numbers tell a pretty compelling story. The fact that there are so few non-white non-men suggests that white men belong in the Elysium army more than anyone else. Again, the player is managing an institution that quickly and obviously becomes far more than an army. The Elysium “army” becomes an entire state-building apparatus that includes not just soldiers and commanders, but lawyers, scientists, statisticians, businesspeople, clergy, scholars, inventors, sailors, skilled labourers, artists and on and on. People from all walks of life flock to create a better future and they all have a place. That’s the point of the game. That’s an awesome point to make. But in a truly egalitarian world everyone, not just whitey, would show be welcome to contribute their input.
Exit Fate carries the implicit suggestion that a people can only succeed together with a multitude of skills and talents (plural protagonism!). However, by filling most of the roles necessary to improve the world with white men, the game also carries the sub-textual understanding that white men are better suited for more tasks and that the relatively few women and people of colour present are an exception. The unfortunate subtext is that white men become the majority in this egalitarian world because they are more useful and more inclined to participate in creating a functional country.
If you have a hundred stories lined up back-to-back and all mis- or under-represent people of a certain identity it becomes ingrained. In something like Exit Fate, a “big ideas” JRPG filled with melodrama and bombast about Humans in a Human world, you can’t have just one type of people represented without suggesting that any unrepresented “Other” is less human. It isn’t that the creator didn’t have a right to make the artistic judgments he made, but in making them there is an undercurrent of white male supremacy: the point of proper representation is the healthy reinforcement of all human beings as human beings.1
It is truly abysmal how invisible most of the world is to the gamer’s gaze. In games’ endless quest for legitimacy—or in the closely related quest to prove games don’t need legitimacy—many great works of art have come into our hands, Exit Fate among them. But even though there are beautiful games that communicate beautiful truths about the human condition, in the same breath they carry the disclaimer “only as it applies to ‘us’.”
It took me to the end of Exit Fate to realize that almost all of the faces in the game looked like mine. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to never see yourself from the start. When somebody claims that only a an underprivilged person can tell the stories of underprivileged people I’m inclined to disagree. But precedent is not on my side.2
I began this with a solid endorsement of Exit Fate and I still completely hold to that. When writers remind audiences that it’s okay to enjoy something while being critical of it, this is what they’re talking about.3 Exit Fate does all the things that a good game is supposed to do while also reinforcing the echo chamber in ways that good games should have stopped long ago.
Exit Fate does a number of subversive and fascinating things and it’s made with such heart and thought that I’m lost for an easy comparison. Like games in general, there is truly meaningful content present in it. Also like games in general, it poses problems that need to be aired and discussed.
[All the artwork in these posts was made by SCF and appears in Exit Fate and on the fansite, Hand of Fate.]
1 Chambers, Becky. “What We Aren’t Talking About Inclusion and Representation, And What We Are.” The Mary Sue. July 19 2013.
2 El-Sabaawi, Soha. “The Girl Without a Land.” Re/Action. July 24 2013.
3 Rachael. “How to be a fan of problematic things.” Social Justice League. Sep 18 2011.